Stanislaus County sheriff’s deputies say his death appears to have been gang-related, and Facebook profiles that mentioned Hernandez indicate that he was either involved with or affiliated with the Norteños.
As we conducted research this week in an attempt to learn more about his life, we were shocked to see West Side youths blatantly promoting the gang lifestyle on social media sites. Patterson residents could be seen donning gang colors, flashing signs and boasting about drug dealing, binge drinking and wishing violence against their enemies.
It was a painful reminder of the culture of death and hopelessness that pervades a relatively small but significant portion of our community. Many of these teens and early 20-somethings obviously had poor role models.
Local programs, such as the Police Activities League in Grayson and the Patterson Teen Center, are making a dent in the problem by offering positive activities for our youth, but they cannot take the place of good parenting.
Churches, schools and nonprofits can also do their part by offering hope and mentorship to those who cannot see a better way.
But youths also have to take it upon themselves to steer clear of trouble. Hernandez already had a criminal track record when he was killed by gunfire last week — he served time for an assault in 2011. While his friends certainly will want to honor his memory, they should do so by learning from his mistakes.
Gang involvement ultimately leads to imprisonment or death. We would hope our young people would instead choose life and the betterment of their community.